The Persecuted Church

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During the height of the Cold War, it was largely illegal for anyone behind the Iron Curtain to own a Bible. A Dutchman named Andrew van der Bijl, or Brother Andrew, became burdened for people in communist nations who had no access to Scripture, so he decided to do something about it.

Andrew had come to trust Christ during rehabilitation from a war injury during World War II. With time on his hands, he began to read the Bible, and could not put it down. Eventually his reading of Scripture led him to trust the Savior, and later into the ministry.

After training in a Bible school, he began traveling from Holland to visit underground churches in communist countries. He was especially drawn to those nations where religious belief was actively persecuted and Bibles were illegal.

Brother Andrew was at an underground church in Czechoslovakia when he noticed that only the pastor and a couple of other people had Bibles. He thought it odd that those who had Bibles would hold them up very high with both hands. Then it struck him that they held the Bible up, so that others in pews behind and around them could read the Scriptures!

With godly commitment and determination, in 1957, Brother Andrew drove his Volkswagen Beetle, packed with Scripture and Christian literature, to Moscow. With God’s blessing, he distributed Scriptures in communist countries all over Europe for decades.

Once as he approached the border of Romania, his VW packed with illegal Bibles, he prayed: “Lord, in my luggage I have Scripture that I want to take to Your children across this border. When You were on earth, You made blind eyes see. Now, I pray, make seeing eyes blind. Do not let the guards see those things You do not want them to see.” So, armed with this prayer, he drove to the guard post. The guard asked, “Do you have anything to declare?” Brother Andrew said, “Just a few small things” (the tracts and Bibles were small). As the guard looked into a suitcase full of Bibles, tracts and clothes, he said, “We won’t bother with them” and waved him through. This happened time after time, in country after country, year after year.

Thankfully, the Iron Curtain came down, and believers across Eastern Europe began to enjoy true religious freedom. Now, in those same countries, it is legal to own Bibles and meet openly in church buildings with other believers.

Though the persecution of Christians under communism has lessened, other terrorist states and governments intolerant to Christ, Christians, Bibles and the gospel, have risen to take their place. We now have brothers and sisters in Christ all across the globe, who every day make the dangerous choice to believe in, trust and follow Jesus.

Open Doors (www.opendoorsusa.org) reports that during 2018 a total of 245 million Christians experienced high levels of persecution for their choice to follow Christ. That means 1 in 9 Christians worldwide are suffering greatly for the cause of Christ. During that year there was an amazing 14% rise in the persecution of Christians from the previous year. Over 4,000 Christians were killed for their faith, over 2,000 were arrested and imprisoned without trial, and 1,266 church buildings were attacked. That means—every day during 2018, 11 Christians were killed for their faith—and every month 105 churches were attacked, burned or vandalized.

What can we do for these, our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ? Hebrews 13:3 commands: “Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.” Don’t forget them! Pray for them as if you were in the same family, because—in Christ You are!

Here is what we can do:

ONE—Pray for God’s boldness for them that they may wisely share the gospel, despite threats. Paul asked the Ephesians to “Pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:19-20). Only the gospel can make a difference because “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

TWO—Pray they have access to Scripture. God’s Word can touch and change lives. The promises of Scripture can strengthen purpose, and direct action. “This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your word has revived me” (Psalm 119:50). “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).

THREE—Pray that God would surround them with a loving church family. This is especially important if they have sacrificed their literal family and been rejected by their friends because of their devotion to Christ.

FOUR—Pray for God to increase their faith and trust in Him. Pray their faith in Him holds strong. To the persecuted, Peter wrote, “if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:14-15).

To learn more about how you can help persecuted Christians worldwide, check out persecution.com – the Voice of the Martyrs. Meanwhile, the best thing to do is REMEMBER them and PRAY for them!

Author: Larry E. Clements

Follower of Christ, fortunate to be husband to Pat, father of 5, grandfather of 12, writer, associate pastor of Pauline Baptist Church

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